Coping with Pet Bereavement

Dogs have long been referred to as ‘man’s best friend’ dependable, loyal. A bond like no other, they seem to just fit in with our lives and to a lot of people, they become family.

Dogs do not judge you; they love you and they are always pleased to see you and want to be with you. They live in the moment, no dwelling on yesterday or pining for tomorrow, they show us how to be present and enjoy the day as it is.

When we have dogs or any pet for that matter, we are aware that we are now responsible for their wellbeing. We are the ones who look out for them and get them the support they need from the vets, or

We develop a bond that is stronger than some friendships we have with other people. Here is something that is dependent on you and thinks the world of you.

So when that bond is broken, whether it is an accident, illness or age, there will come a time when we have to make a decision and then we have to live with the burden of making that decision or of taking care of their remains.

You may be feeling confused, hurt, angry, lost. You may not know how you will ever get over this. That the pain is too much, and it consumes you and takes over every waking minute.

You cannot sleep, or you sleep too much because sleep brings flashbacks, or being asleep means, you are reunited in dreams.

You start to stop eating or eat too much, control of what is eaten or just not caring for it. Maybe you eat to soothe yourself and it is the only constant that you can rely on.

You may find you feel angry, at anyone who you see as being responsible for losing your companion. You may turn that anger inward and blame yourself for situations out of your or anyone’s control.

What can be done? Where do you go from here? Is there anyone out there that will understand, or are you destined to hear countless empty platitudes that come from well meaning friends and family but have no real substance to them?

You may have access to social media and the internet and be looking for answers, support, anyone that can help you cope with what has happened. Where to turn to? Where do you start looking when your world has been turned upside down?

Introducing the Ralph Site

‘The Ralph site was set up by vet Shailen Jasani (MA VetMB MRCVS DipACVECC) in July 2011 after the loss of his beloved cat, Ralph, following a motor vehicle accident in November 2010. The site is dedicated to all the animals that have touched and continue to touch the hearts of so many people.’ www.theralphsite.co.uk There is a dedicated Facebook support group and downloadable leaflets for veterinary staff and pet owners. They also have a list of Pet Bereavement Counsellors.

“Where to turn to? Where do you start looking when your world has been turned upside down?”

Introducing the Ralph Site

‘The Ralph site was set up by vet Shailen Jasani (MA VetMB MRCVS DipACVECC) in July 2011 after the loss of his beloved cat, Ralph, following a motor vehicle accident in November 2010. The site is dedicated to all the animals that have touched and continue to touch the hearts of so many people.’ www.theralphsite.co.uk There is a dedicated Facebook support group and downloadable leaflets for veterinary staff and pet owners. They also have a list of Pet Bereavement Counsellors.

The Pet Bereavement Support Service from the Blue Cross - 0800 096 6606

pbssmail@bluecross.org.uk is one of the most well-known sources of support for the bereaved owner. Offering a free email or phone line service the trained volunteers make sure that owners everywhere have the support and guidance needed to navigate their way through the pain of loss.

Some pet crematoriums offer ongoing support also.

Legacy Pets in Bury, Greater Manchester www.legacypets.com and Dignity Pet Crematorium in Hook, Hampshire www.dignitypetcrem.co.uk are at least two that have very high standards when it comes to the care of your pet, and the support for you the owner.

If you feel that you want to speak to the same person whenever you need support, or you just need the continuity then a Pet Bereavement Counsellor maybe your best option.

Pet Bereavement counsellors spend hours training and dedicating their lives to helping those who have loved and lost a companion and need someone to talk to. We understand that there are those out there who will not or do not understand why you may be so devastated and affected by your loss.

There are a few services out there that offer this support and it is important that you take the time to find the one that feels right.

Some helpful tips that can help you if you are looking for further support:

Writing

Write a letter to your companion, if there was anything you felt was left unsaid then this your

chance to put it right. Put it all down on paper, use a pen a pencil, type it on a typewriter, type it on the computer but whatever medium you choose just get it out in the open. It can feel so therapeutic. Then either keep the letter, rip it up, bury it with your companion or delete it.

Scrapbook

I often suggest this as part of my counselling. Choosing photos may be hard to do when the loss is recent, but the memories that come to mind when you look at them is something else.

When you look at a photo taken just at the right time or taken deliberately you go back to that moment. Remember how you felt that day, why you took the picture. Now write down the memories and feelings that come to you. Use them as a trigger for going back to that time whenever you need a pick me up.

You could even make a shadowbox or wall art, using Velcro or string and pegs you can rearrange the pictures and mementoes in any way you like depending on your mood. There is no set way or pattern, this is your memorial, do it your way.

Most of the belts available are ‘one size fits all’ however some styles are sized and tend to have a maximum circumference which states waist but remember belts function better positioned on the hips, so ensure that is the measurement you base your sizing on.

Art

Whether your creation is painting, photography, crafting, it doesn’t matter. Use your skills and passion to capture the emotions you inwardly feel. Express them through various mediums and release them into canvas, card or film.

Cry

Some people worry that once they start crying, they will never stop. But your tears will stop when they are ready and if you have ever tried to keep crying after your tears stop then you know they will not be forced.

If you feel you cannot let yourself cry, or the environment is not right, you can take yourself somewhere quiet, or give yourself a set time to let it out. I know tears do not necessarily come on cue, but there will always be a trigger for them if you think about it.

Let them fall, do not stop them, do not be ashamed. Tears are made of different chemical compositions dependent on why they are formed. So, it is a release and better for us to let

them out. Have you ever tried to hold them back? I find it physically hurts, stinging and adding to the distress. Emotional tears are our bodies way of calming us, triggering a parasympathetic response which is why we take a deep breath and relax our faces.

If you are struggling with crying, whether you feel you are on the verge of tears too often, or that you cannot seem to find release or relief from them, it may be best to speak to your G.P for further advice.

Belongings

Some people find it helpful to donate their pet’s belongings to pets in need. Feeling that they are giving back to others and that their pet lives on through this deed.

Pet beds, there are lots of ideas for dog beds some people have used them for plants in the garden as a memorial to a loved one.

Others take the collar and place it around a plant pot and grow a plant in there in honour of their companion.

Where to find our expert!

I am a Companion Animal Bereavement Counsellor, I have a Diploma in Companion Animal Bereavement Counselling, a Level 3 Certificate in Pet Bereavement and I am a Level 2 Veterinary Care Assistant. I have been qualified as a Pet Bereavement Counsellor for over 19 years, and I worked in Veterinary practice for 16 years.

Find out more: https://animalbereavementcounselling.com

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I am a Companion Animal Bereavement Counsellor, I have a Diploma in Companion Animal Bereavement Counselling, a Level 3 Certificate in Pet Bereavement and I am a Level 2 Veterinary Care Assistant. I have been qualified as a Pet Bereavement Counsellor for over 19 years, and I worked in Veterinary practice for 16 years.

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